Let’s Work Together; Fire Service Edition
KENNETT_ The future of the fire service is regional cooperation and a shared vision. With the persistence of Kennett Township and the Kennett Fire and EMS Regional Commission, Kennett Fire Company No. 1 and Longwood Fire Company reached an agreement to deliver regional fire service ending decades of inefficiency. “The proposal enacted by the regional fire commission, Kennett Township, Kennett and Longwood Fire Companies is a historic and new beginning to emergency services delivery in our region,” said Chair of the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors Dr. Richard Leff.
Kennett Township and the Kennett Fire and EMS Regional Commission have been working diligently to find efficiencies in fire service delivery for the region as costs continue to increase and available volunteers decline. Kennett Fire Company discovered significant response deficiencies in 2020 that were difficult to address with existing resources. “Kennett Fire Company relies on about 20 active volunteers, most who work during the day, to run our station. Being solely volunteer was not a viable model long term, and we knew something needed to change,” said Kennett Fire Chief Tom Brady.
The proposal is for the companies to unify under a regional command structure while maintaining their individual identities. The proposal went into effect on May 3rd.
Kennett Township Board of Supervisors voted to change its fire territory designating Longwood Fire Company as the sole provider for the entirety of the Township. The caveat is that both fire companies will be responding to all calls, building out a regional response model, taking advantage of the resources in both companies. “The firefighters are going to be seeing a lot more of each other” said Longwood Fire Chief, A.J. McCarthy. “This is a regional response model that benefits everyone as both fire companies will be bringing their resources to the table working together instead of competing against each other.” The proposal reduces response times, shares resources including manpower, unifies response strategy, and reduces regional costs.
The Command structure of the proposal is to be administered by Longwood Fire Company with Kennett Fire Company serving as a regional component. For the resident having an emergency, they will receive a swift response from both companies who are deploying a unified strategy ensuring the timely arrival and appropriately staffed apparatus regardless of the day or hour. Hockessin Fire Company will also be jointly responding in the southern part of Kennett Township, reducing response times by an average of 6 minutes.
To make the proposal possible, the Kennett Regional Fire and EMS Commission made funding changes to address daytime response challenges. Kennett Fire Company is retiring its ambulance to allow for funding to be reallocated to paid firefighters to serve during the weekdays. “The Kennett Ambulance will be retiring over the next 90 days with Longwood stationing a 24/7 MICU (ambulance) in Kennett Fire Company after the change,” said Kennett Assistant Chief Richard Franks, “Kennett Fire Company is very proud and thankful for all of the current and past emergency medical service providers that served on the Kennett Ambulance. The region will be in good hands with Longwood EMS.”
The Commission also increased Kennett Fire’s annual funding by $254,720 to cover funding shortfalls. Additionally, $74,100 per year was allocated to Longwood Fire Company to provide for one additional firefighter to makeup a full daytime crew. These funding changes address an inadequate response performance of Kennett Fire Company during the weekdays in 2020 and builds out a dual response plan for the region. “Dual fire dispatch will provide an immediate benefit to our citizens especially as our region continues to grow and develop. The ability to have multiple pieces of fire apparatus arriving on scene minutes after the original alarm increases our chances to save life and property,” said Longwood Chief McCarthy.
The proposal was unanimously approved by both Longwood Fire Company and Kennett Fire Company and the changes were effective May 3, 2021. Kennett Chief Brady said, “This proposal ensures Kennett Fire Company will serve the community for another 150 years, this is good for us and our community.” Longwood Chief McCarthy said, “Regional response structure is the future of the fire service, working together enables us to deliver a better service to our residents.”
The Kennett Regional Fire and EMS Commission, comprised of six municipalities, voted unanimously to accept the proposal. “The goal of the regional commission since its inception in 2017 has been to foster collaboration among the fire companies as a means of maximizing public safety and efficient use of taxpayer funds,” said Chair Cuyler Walker, “This proposal accomplishes all three objectives.” Walker noted that next steps include exploring ways to expand this proposal to the rest of the Commission region to support the operations of Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company and the residents of its primary response territory.
“Public safety is a core responsibility municipalities and sorting through these challenges has been incredibly difficult,” said Kennett Vice Chair Whitney Hoffman, “Seeing the fire companies work together to accomplish a shared mission, under a unified structure, will benefit this community for decades to come.”
Borough Councilmen Ethan Cramer has been working on these issues for the last 5 years, warning that how fire and EMS is delivered would need to change someday; "I am so heartened that our region has worked hard, together, to find a stable model to protect our constituents' lives, homes and businesses when fires and accidents happen. I am also delighted that the Borough community will continue to have the services of Longwood Fire Company's excellent EMTs and paramedics; we have trusted and relied on them for many years, and I am grateful that Kennett Fire Company plans to host them right here in the Borough. I deeply honor the long history of outstanding service Kennett Fire Company's ambulance has provided and am saddened at the necessity of retiring it. I am certain, though, that Borough residents will continue to receive the absolute highest level of emergency medical services possible."
Kennett Chair Dr. Leff thanked everyone who made this historic arrangement possible, “Thank you to the members of the Commission who made this possible. It was their vision in 2016 that brought the elements of this model to the table, the persistence of the fire companies to deliver the best service possible, and our Township Manager Eden Ratliff, for catalyzing the final adopted proposal.”